Netanyahu praises Abbas remarks, but slams Hamas pact

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas Tuesday for condemning the alleged kidnapping of three teenagers by Hamas, but slammed his unity pact with the Islamist movement.

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas Tuesday for condemning the alleged kidnapping of three teenagers by Hamas, but slammed his unity pact with the Islamist movement.

"I appreciate what president Abbas said a few days ago in Saudi Arabia, rejecting the kidnapping," Netanyahu told his Romanian counterpart Victor Ponta at a meeting in Jerusalem.

"I think these were important words," he said, according to a statement.

The three Israeli teenagers disappeared from a hitchhiking stop in the southern West Bank on June 12, with Israel rounding up hundreds of Palestinians as part of an operation to find them while also dealing a crushing blow to Hamas`s West Bank network.

Last week Abbas told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia that "those who kidnapped the three teenagers want to destroy us. We will hold them accountable," he said, but stopped short of blaming Hamas.

Israel has accused Hamas of kidnapping the youngsters, but the Islamist movement has not claimed their abduction.

Abbas also pledged to continue security coordination with Israel, which he said was in Palestinians` "best interest" since it would "help protect us".

Israel has seized on the opportunity presented by the operation to try to rupture a reconciliation agreement between Abbas and Hamas, which saw the two sides recently agree on an interim unity government of independents.

In remarks aired Tuesday, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told Al-Jazeera television that "we do not have information about what happened," but stressed his support for "every resistance attack against the Israeli occupation".

Netanyahu slammed Meshaal`s remarks, reiterating that if "Abbas really means what he said about the kidnapping, and if he is truly committed to peace and to fighting terrorism, then logic and common sense mandate that he break his pact with Hamas."

"There can be no alliance with the kidnappers of children," he said.

Israel has since the beginning of its operation arrested 354 Palestinians throughout the West Bank, 269 of them Hamas activists, the army says.

Tensions have risen among Palestinians over the crackdown and the four killed by Israeli forces during arrests, with the start next week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan potentially raising further difficulties.

On Tuesday, army radio reported the Israeli cabinet had decided to scale down the arrest campaign and focus on searching for the teens.

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